ECN CoverE&C Commissary News

Editorial Comment — December 2013

This Is Not A Drill …

Close Stateside commissaries?

It is time for everyone in military resale to make their voices heard, loud and clear.

For all of you who shop in, provide support to, work in or rely on the system in any way … your friends and associates along with you … and all of us who stand behind you … it is time to shout from the rooftops with the force of two million drill sergeants, to be sure to be understood by all the law- and policymakers in Washington, D.C. who are considering that question.

It is also time to speak with your base commander and ask him or her how your installation and its military employees and families would really fare without a commissary — and along with that, a severely compromised exchange and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) capability. And the knock-on effects to a hollowed-out military.

Some may say the latest proposal to close Stateside commissaries is merely a bluff or just a negotiating ploy — but the military community and their supporters throughout the nation cannot take that chance: everything is on the table, and everything is at stake. Defense leadership expects their fax machines to spew letters night and day, their mailboxes of every kind to overflow as well, and that's just what must happen — and then some. Meanwhile, there are those who are quietly hoping you are tired of the struggle — that if there is not enough of an outcry, they can then say, “See, no one cares anymore!” … when you know nothing could be further from the truth.

And it's not just the commissary side of the house. If Stateside commissaries are cut, exchanges stand to lose a significant source of their traffic and with it, those revenues. That puts the entire military resale and MWR structure on base in peril. No business, whether for profit or for benefit, can sustain that kind of hit to its top line without drastic effects.

Or has that been the plan all along?

No conspiracy theory is even necessary. If Department of Defense leadership chooses to get its advice from the Defense Business Board and other entities that are hostile to military family benefits, it will get the same advice it always gets.

The commissary benefit costs just one-quarter of one percent of the overall military budget, but these advisors go after this small fraction again and again like a pack of hyenas, while the real carcass of waste, fraud and abuse lies out of sight, bloated but undisturbed.

Commissaries have proven to be a beneficial elixir that provides sustaining power to the nation's military families, a 6-to-1 benefit to DoD, and a critical on-base resource for installation commanders all over the world. Cut one billion here, and DoD will immediately lose multiple billions in tax benefits, savings to patrons and untold synergies in servicemember morale.

That defense agency leaders and planners are required to go through this exercise every time the budget comes up is shameful. It not only alarms and demoralizes military families and servicemembers, and strikes concern in valorous retired veterans' hearts, but also damages these businesses' ability to operate. It has already caused too many people to lose their jobs in a demographic where military dependents and spouses suffer disproportionately.

But it is not just an exercise this time. This is not a drill.

The matter is urgent, people! The DoD budget request that really matters, the one that locks in funding for 2015 and sets the tone for the future, is being drawn up RIGHT NOW, as we write, and will be sent to Congress by February.

Write your local Representative and your Senator as well; write the President and send a copy to the Secretary of Defense. Remind them that Military Resale is an integral part of national security, and that it returns up to six dollars for every one that is spent on it every day! Let them know how closing commissaries would impact your customers, your families, your installation and American suppliers.

We have it on good authority that when members of Congress receive mail on this kind of issue — letters are so rare in this electronic age — that it grabs their attention.

Exercise your right of free speech. Tell them, “Enough is enough — those who keep us a nation free to exercise free speech deserve better!” They deserve all the best efforts the military community and its advocates, and the most ardent support Congress and the Department of Defense can muster — for without them, there is no department, there is no defense, and there is no freedom.

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